This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.
Ruth is the story of a young Moabite widow who comes to know the covenant love of the one true God and the joy of belonging to his people through her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. As these two women navigate through difficult as well as ordinary circumstances, there is unmistakable evidence of God’s sovereign hand at work to redeem a people for himself.
Like Ruth, we too need a Kinsman-Redeemer who will do what is necessary to remedy our helpless condition.
He is the hero of the story as the faithful God who with great loving-kindness (hesed) cares for his own and provides what they need. In Ruth’s story we see a reflection of our own. For we too were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Like Ruth, we too need a Kinsman-Redeemer who will do what is necessary to remedy our helpless condition.
The language of redemption permeates the story of Ruth: words built on the root “redeem” (ga-al) appear 23 times. Key to understanding the narrative is the concept of the kinsman-redeemer, the closest living male relative who had the duty to preserve the family name and land. He could do this in a number of ways: buying back either land that a poor relative had to sell or the family member that had sold himself into slavery to pay debts (Lev. 25:25, 47–49), avenging the death of a family member (Num.35:19–21), or marrying the widow of a deceased relative (Deut. 25:5–10). All of these duties could be refused, including marriage to the late relative’s widow (now known as “levirate” marriage, levir being the Latin translation of the Hebrew word for brother-in-law). In certain cases, one could be a goel (Hebrew for “close relative” or “redeemer”) without being a levir (one who would provide an heir to the deceased relative through marrying his widow). In Ruth’s case, the kinsman-redeemer Boaz elects to carry out the duties of both, buying her estate and taking her as his bride.
The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.
Readers of the New Testament will recognize Jesus Christ as the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer who voluntarily paid the price for the redemption of his people and takes them as his beloved bride (Eph. 5:23–32; Rev. 19:7).
This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.
Genesis • Exodus • Leviticus • Numbers • Deuteronomy • Joshua • Judges • Ruth • 1–2 Samuel • 1–2 Kings • 1–2 Chronicles • Ezra • Nehemiah • Esther • Job • Psalms • Proverbs • Ecclesiastes • Song of Solomon • Isaiah • Jeremiah • Lamentations • Ezekiel • Daniel • Hosea • Joel • Amos • Obadiah • Jonah • Micah • Nahum • Habbakuk • Zephaniah • Haggai • Zechariah • Malachi
Matthew • Mark • Luke • John • Acts • Romans • 1 Corinthians • 2 Corinthians • Galatians • Ephesians • Philippians • Colossians • 1 Thessalonians • 2 Thessalonians • 1 Timothy • 2 Timothy • Titus • Philemon • Hebrews • James • 1 Peter • 2 Peter • 1–3 John • Jude • Revelation